The second semester is in full swing, and with it comes the urge to get my shit together! My grades last semester were nothing short of atrocious, and after a session of swinging into the air, à la Cuba Gooding, Jr. in Boyz in the Hood, I got a fucking clue. I realize that as I begin to mature, no one is going to care about circumstances. They want to see the work. That’s exactly what I need to be doing, rolling up my sleeves and getting it done. I’d say that I’m not gonna complain while doing the work, but I‘d be lying. This “work” includes personal projects I’m dying to complete, self-teaching coding, and writing assignments for my playwriting class. I can’t let the kids in that class show me up, which is what will happen if I half ass it like I do most things. I went to drop the class, but then I realized that I can’t run from everything because of difficulty level.
It’s a seminar style class and experience varies. We have kids in there who have written plays and had them produced within the local New York theater community. You have the kids who don’t write within the confines stage demand, but who write narrative fiction and essays—they want to dip their toes into this new field. Then, you have absolute novices, who are holding their heads high despite the experience others have. For me, I’m taking this class because of a conversation that took place over winter break. My friend in acting school expressed that she was over the lack of diversity in theater and film, of always being assigned the Beneatha Monologue, and just wanting something new. I had always wanted to create scripts to some degree, but had gotten distracted or come up with a litany of excuses as to why I couldn’t. In this class, I’m being forced to do the work. I want to pass, and to pass I have to produce a play.
When she first walked into the classroom, I thought the teacher was a student. She’s really young, but established nonetheless. She wore a knitted sweater and motorcycle boots, as if she’s living on the edge, but not before she slowly sips on chai tea and invents new characters. I looked around at the faces in the class. We were a pretty “diverse” bunch. (What is diversity anyway, other than a catchall phrase?) I was sensing some real attitude from one of the girls in the class, but that’s a diary entry for a later date. We engaged in icebreakers, which always suck. And then almost immediately, we started writing. I hate these writing exercises to “get the juices flowing,” I don’t think they really benefit anyone but I am not a playwriting professor.
“Off the top of your head, write down thing you’re obsessed with and then share them.” That’s where things got weird and murky. I thought the meaning of “off the top of your head” was widely understood, but then you realize that in some way everyone here is trying to outdo everyone else. My answer was pretty straightforward, the first thing that popped into my mind: Michael B. Jordan. This answer paled in comparison, it was scoffed at: I had been branded a fangirl incapable of thinking on an artistic level. I see nothing wrong with name dropping Michael, while others name dropped Kierkegaard. I’ve noticed here, that the more people try to make obscure references to shit that’s not really that obscure, the more mediocre that person’s work is. They have to overcompensate with knowledge, but often never have anything on the page and mope and whine that they’re misunderstood.
Other answers were like, “I’m obsessed with making my parents happy.” Seems pretty legitimate. Then, there are those creative writing majors and disciples of Didion. They, funny enough, don’t name their literary aspirations as points of obsession. Obsession in the professional sense isn’t wanted, it’s all about the art. Sacrificing for the art. Being transparent for the art. Some other generic response they picked up in a Marina Abramović interview. Rather we get long drawn out answers like, “I’m obsessed with boys who are emotionally unavailable. I visited him one day in that barren town, barren like his soul, and his unkempt hair was everywhere, like the thoughts pitter pattering in my prefrontal cortex.” Someone is cheating.
There were few interesting answers, but I’m not easily impressed by anything really. I scrunched up my face in “chile, what the fuck?” when, when rattling off the things that he was obsessed with, my Anglo Saxon compatriot nonchalantly said, “black people.” I could’ve used some elaboration on that but do I really want it? We have one REAL weirdo in the class. I mean, all narratives are valid and whatever other political correct thing I’m supposed to say, however her brand of comedy isn’t funny. She claims she’s accomplished and has notebooks full of jokes. She’s trying for Broad City but keeps entering no man’s land. The two-person scene about a man asking a woman in Chipotle to cum in her socks wasn’t pushing the boundaries she thought it was.
In short, I never want to go back to that class again. I didn’t feel very welcome. I mean, the monologue about a teenage girl liking her local barista done in botched valley girl with ratchet peppered in was enough to turn me away. However, I’m stuck. The class is four hours and the assignments are aplenty. I can do it…I guess. Not to toot my own horn but I can do better than cumming in socks. I’m not gonna flip the script and write plays that these people want to hear. I’m not gonna write longwinded existential prose during the writing exercise to impress the professor. I’m going to just BE. Which is something I’m actively striving for this semester. ♦